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Tripundra (Sanskrit: त्रिपुण्ड्र tripuṇḍra "three marks") or பட்டை / Pattai in Tamil is a saivite tilaka. 'Tripundra' refers to the three mukti. Tri means three, pundra means one which is released. There are three horizontal lines of vibhuti (holy ash) on the brow, often with a dot (bindu) as the third eye. The three lines represent the soul's three bonds: anava, karma, and maya. Holy ash, made of burnt cow dung, is a reminder of the temporary nature of the physical body and the urgency to strive for spiritual attainment and closeness to God.

Woman with tripundra on her forehead

The "TRI" in the word TRIPUNDARA siginifies the Triguna – Satva, Raja and Tama; Triloka – Bhuhu, Bhuvaha, Suvaha; Tritapa – Bbhoutika, Daivika, Adhyatmika.

"PUNDARA" is derived from the word Pundarika, which is one of the names Lord Vishnu. Pundarika also often refers to a lotus. The lotus signifies purity which is devoid from any pollution.

TRIPUNDARA is either called as Bhasma or Vibhuti.

Applying TRIPUNDARA on the forehead is termed as "Bhasma dharana". 'Bhasma' is sacred ash. The word Bhasma means the one that is has resulted of complete self-sacrifice. the sacet ash has lost its original shape, size, color, fragrance, karma all and burned for the sake of someone and gave light, heat, food by burning its own physical body.

It is expected that when one is about to wear 'TRIPUNDARA ' on his fore head, he must chant the mantras of lord while understanding the meaning of the same and not just limit the tripundara as a sign of culture or descrimination. TRIPUNDARA signifies the wearer to elevate his understandings and learn to sacrifice for attainment of peaceful life.

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